Tag Archives: Literature

Digital Tools for Literary Scholars

Wired on Moretti: a short riff on Franco Moretti’s current projects that is worth a quick read, especially for English 214 students envisioning other ways in which they could have structured their final research project for the Fall 2009 term.

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I wrote this position paper today – Does it makes sense? I was sugar deprived at the time.

I have always been, and always will be a lover of pen to paper and cover to cover. Although the traditional method of writing a poem, story, essay, or even a grocery list has changed over the years and now includes input by typewriters, computers, handheld PDA’s and blackberries I will never stray from the simple basic method of writing and reading literature – word only.

Adding pictures and sound to literature is in no way a new revelation. Yet for as long as I can remember these added images and sound were still enclosed in a book, and were not flashing across a computer screen in a bold and intrusive method  as thought they were saying, “look at me.” No thanks. I have given it a chance. I struggled with the click through tabs, the abode upgrade downloads, the self navigation, and worst of all the 10 minute trickling of letters down the screen that at first developed a sense of intrigue in me that maybe somehow something might happen. But then at a point where it appears there is no end.. it does end, and rather abruptly thereby leaving me desperate for the wasted ten minutes of my life back.

As a child, my mom bought me the books that had a soundboard along the side. The reader, me in this case, is usually under the age of 5 and is instructed to push a button on this soundboard and a little speaker at the bottom would blast some sort of animal sound, Disney character quote or plane, train and automobile noise. They did not hold my interest; even then it was my opinion that you can’t use bells and whistles to detract from your lack of content. I have concluded that there is a reason that pictures are reserved for children’s books. They are there to aid in the development of a child’s creative side, to stimulate interest and promote a child’s own imagination. I don’t need this. I prefer to create my own images, to get lost in the writing, and to develop meaning for the words myself. That being said, I am also the person who abhors the thought of seeing a Hollywood adaptation of a novel I love. Why on earth would I want to erase the beautiful images I have made for myself and replace them with some Hollywood hotshot nitwits idea of what the novel should look like. For example: White Oleander: Novel, spectacular; Film, horrid. Blindness, a book that impacted my life so much so that I gave it as a gift to everyone I loved for Christmas that year, and the film adaptation was tragic and despicable. Please don’t even get me started on the upcoming adaptation of Alice Sebold’s “The lovely bones” I may just cry.

Maybe it is for this reason that I loathe the E-Literature. The only film adaptations that have ever been successful in my eyes are those of children’s novels. Novels that are designed to be entertainment like “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” I will welcome with open arms to the screen. Yes by all means, create e-literature for children, but give me words on paper enclosed in two covers. I need the definitive beginning and end that comes with such a format.. So no, I do not see E-Lit as a vibrant exciting strand of literary production. All the flash, html, image, sound, and click through nonsense is another way to distract the reader from actually looking at words on a page and deciding what to do with them. Sure e-lit does hold a place somewhere in the land of literature, but that place should be reserved for children.

Yours Truly,

Alexandra “Anti-E.Lit” Loslier

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The Moment Literature Danced

Not too long ago, literature was a pretty straightforward concept for me to define. Literature can be poetry, stories, books, newspapers, indeed, literature to me was anything that I could read, and, for the most part, that stayed put as I read it. Ever since taking the Culture and Technology English course at Capilano University, however, my entire conception of what literature is has shifted.

As our class clicked through the multiplicity of electronic works in the Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1 site, I came to appreciate the more abstract forms literature could take; words forming in a dance of looping string, a story told through my curious clicks, a poem that immersed me in its textual, visual, musical painting. No longer is literature an activity where I simply sit and scan words on a page or screen, my comprehension dependent on the ability to decode words, but is a dynamic interaction with textual and visual elements, where comprehension may not be the end result, but, indeed nor is it meant to be like I used to believe.
In the earlier stages of interacting with this foreign world of words and stories, the frustrations of my confusion was indeed a common feeling. More often than not, the pieces evoked thoughts of loss, futility and anger. Why is it that I value this new form of literature then, if my experiences seem to be more predominantly negative? The answer is simple: because I felt something. The electronic literature collection not only forced me to engage with the texts presented to me (or that I had to find for myself), they manifested stronger emotions than I had experienced with any other assigned book, article, or poem in print or as a pdf. Never before had I felt like destroying a certain author’s work, and never before had I been mesmerized and fascinated by simple words on a screen, their meaning redefined through various motional or interactive elements, and the barriers of language and thought disintegrating through the imaginative execution of textual art. Not only has my aesthetic view to defining literature has changed, but my understanding of its emotional power has evolved as well.

Though I might have once seen the concept of literature as a finished and closed book, my recent experiences with the ELC-1 has reopened it to a chapter I had never read. My views of the what literature is capable of now exceeds that of the enthralling story, and informative essay, and acknowledges the artistry of literary presentation, as well as the involving and interactive characteristics literature can take. My relationship with literature has been changed for the better, my engagement one that dreams of the vast possibilities and interpretations written language can take. Forget plot outlines, trains of thought, the consistency my literary concept of yore described… the static view is gone; I now read for the thrill of the literary unexpected.

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Looking at the Subtle Celestial

By Chris Wilcox

The medium length, story-poem Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky is a poem that shares several narratives from the third person view. The poem is by an Egyptian designer and artist, Sharif Ezzat and presents a very simple interface but suggests a vast, complex idea for a theme. It starts off with a short narration by a man speaking in Arabic which is done by someone other than Ezzat.

After the short narrative introduction, we are taken to this star-speckled canvas in which there are nine blue stars to click on. Each one presents a vague mini-poem that starts off with “Shall I tell you about…” and has some hidden connection to the rest of the poems. This hidden connection will be the soul reason I believe Ezzat’s work to be so astounding.

These hidden connections I’m talking about give rise to the overall theme which are built upon two founding reasons; subtlety and the idea of the celestial. Subtle, because of the use of simple repetitive words and sounds as well as the short sentence length that builds the theme. Then celestial because that theme is tied into the vastness of the whole poem collectively and appears beyond instant comprehension. It’s almost as if Ezzat contrasted it against the starry-night sky on purpose to show how vast something simple can be.

The vastness that I’m talking about is hinted in several instances throughout Ezzat’s work and ties back to the idea of the celestial. Probably the two most prevalent examples are when the narrator talks about his love and how the world is to become his family. When describing his love he says he doesn’t understand how he could appear to be warm as he “was painted all in black”. This alludes to the notion that the narrator isn’t just a man, but more like the starry night sky itself.

Now keeping that in mind the same idea is present when he talks about how the whole world is to become his family. The narrator talks about how “They are knocking on the door now.” which seems suggest that people are always wanting his attention. So taking a step back and applying the concept that the narrator is the the heavens and the stars, the quote still makes sense. In fact it makes more sense as it almost gives the imagery of people looking up to the stars for answers and prayers. This unifies the vastness and again really drives that idea of subtlety presenting a complex almost un-comprehensible theme.

Comlexity through subtlety is how Ezzat seems to prefer to work. The poem has several grand concepts hidden throughout itself and as you look deeper into each selection, you find that there are more phrases that suggest that the narrator is the celestial rather than just the individual. Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky is an intriguing poem as there’s almost too much to try and understand, yet anyone can admire it’s simplicity. Ezzat has truly created something in which you can look at forever and see something new every time.

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